How he fits in Houston
The Houston Rockets have been looking for a center who can spread the floor for years and in Christian Wood, their search is finally over. While Wood wasn’t the best player on the free-agent market, he was the best fit for what the Rockets need.
The Rockets’ playoff series loss against the Los Angeles Lakers exposed their greatest weakness, their lack of lineup versatility. The Rockets’ midseason move to microball was deadly against some opponents but equally ineffective against others.
Christian Wood’s ability to be dangerous from multiple spots on the court will allow the Rockets to have a more varied attack. Also, it will allow for the Rockets to get back to the bread and butter of NBA offenses, the pick and roll.
Last season the Rockets, per NBA stat tracking, utilized the pick and roll less than any other team in the league while blowing the league away in their number of isolation plays. One of the luxuries of employing James Harden is that running isolation after isolation can lead to an effective offense.
Wood’s presence will allow the Rockets to reinvigorate their pick and roll game. He poses a threat as a rim-runner and a pick and pop artist. Teams will be in a no-win situation with Wood, they’ll either have to allow lobs at the rim or open threes and that doesn’t even take into account stopping the ball-handler.
The combination of Harden and Wood or Westbrook and Wood in the pick and roll should be some of the league’s best. James Harden and Russell Westbrook are difficult enough to stop, add in few more easy driving lanes and the duo could be the first teammates to average 30 points per game since Elgin Baylor and Jerry West for the 1961-62 Lakers.
While the pick and roll should see a comeback in Houston this season, Wood will allow the Rockets to continue to have five players on the perimeter to clear out the paint for Westbrook’s drives. On offense, Wood is everything the Rockets have been looking for in a center.
The Rockets want to keep James Harden and Christian Wood’s signing is a step in the right direction. His addition will allow the Rockets to maintain the spacing that allowed for Russell Westbrook’s surge in the second half, while also featuring the deadly pick and roll attack they employed when Clint Capela was still in town.
Wood is not an elite rebounder but if he can help the Rockets improve from 25th in offensive and defensive rebounding rate he’ll improve one of the team’s greatest weaknesses. The Rockets hardly ever won the rebounding battle and finished with the 8th most wins in the league, any marginal improvement in this area could see them vault back into title contention.
Christian Wood won’t solve all of the Rockets’ issues overnight but he does make the league’s 6th best offense even better and he improves the team’s greatest weakness. At three-years for $41 million the Rockets got the best free agent for their needs at a price that fits their budget.